Several village commissioners and the mayor said they were advised by village attorney Michael Durkin that a vote to kill a proposal for two four-story townhouses on Elgin Avenue would likely wind up in court. Still, the council handily rejected the project by a count of 1 to 4, and those in the majority are blaming the zoning regulations for being out of synch with what residents want.
“Our village attorney at least advised us that not approving the site plan could open us up for some litigation,” Mayor Anthony Calderone said.
Barney O’Reilly, owner of Cherryfield Development, said he was still discussing the matter with his attorney.
Calderone joined the majority in defeating the project. He acknowledged that current zoning regulations affecting the Elgin Avenue property allow for a four-story structure, however, the mayor said he voted against the project because the height did not fit the area aesthetically.
Calderone said he accepts responsibility for the gaps between the village’s zoning and its comprehensive plan that guides those regulations. Overhauling the zoning ordinance is a massive project, Calderone said, and has taken a back burner to other issues.
Commissioner Tom Gillian also voted with the majority and he too, pointed to aesthetics in justifying his vote.
“I do live in the neighborhood,” Gillian said. “I am acquainted with many of the residents. But larger than that, in my opinion the developer could have done more to work with the residents to make this more palatable.”
Village Administrator Mike Sturino said the proposed townhouse development complied with the municipality’s zoning regulations.
Commissioner Mark Hosty supervises the building and code offices in Forest Park and cast the lone vote in favor of the development. Hosty estimated that some eight different plans were drawn up by the applicant, Cherryfield Development, and said that in all likelihood nothing would have satisfied the dissenters.
During consultations with the village attorney, Hosty said Durkin used words like “arbitrary” and “capricious” to characterize a vote against the development.
“I’m not an attorney, but I imagine Cherryfield has a pretty good case right now,” Hosty said.
Durkin said he can not disclose any legal advice he may have given to the commissioners, nor would he publicly state his reaction to their vote. The village’s legal position, Durkin said, is that a change in the zoning for that property was in the works prior to the village receiving the site plan that went before the council on Sept. 11. That site plan was different than the original application that actually prompted the village to consider a zoning change, Durkin said.
“The village position is there is a zoning change in the hopper,” Durkin said.
An ordinance changing the 400 and 500 blocks of Elgin Avenue from an R-3 zone to an R-2 zone will be presented at the next council meeting.